Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Just Made Killer Fruit Snacks Out of Zucchini, Kool-Aid and a Paper Clip.

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Okay … I didn’t actually use a paper clip.  I got a little too MacGyver on the title.  But, I did make honest-to-goodness fruit snacks out of zucchini and kool-aid.  And you can do it without a dehydrator, too.

And that kind of know-how would so impress MacGyver.

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Curious?

It’s super easy, cheap and way better for the kiddos than the high fructose corn syrup / modified corn starch numbers at the store.

There’s a few different versions of this recipe floating around the web, but this is my own recipes that, in my humble opinion, tastes even better, uses much less sugar and can actually work in the oven if you don’t have a dehydrator.  I have made several batches over the last few days and hope my trial and error process helps someone out. 

Homemade Fruit Snacks

Or the: Your Kids Will The Entire Batch In Two Minutes and You Finally Have Something To Do With All That Zucchini Besides Bread and Muffins Recipe

For this recipe you’ll need:

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Wash, peel and halve your zucchini, even if you’re using small, tender squash.

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You want to get all of the peel removed so that the zucchini meat dehydrates properly and looks in no way healthy.  This is critical for the kids to buy into the idea.  Halve your zucchini if you’re using baseball-sized ones like I did.  It makes them much easier to work with.

Remove the seeds and pulp from the inside with a spoon, making sure the meat has a nice, even thickness.

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When you’re done the zucchini should look like this:

peel-free and a fairly even thickness.

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Cut the zucchini in long strips about 1/4” – 3/8” thick. 

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Don’t worry about being precise, just eyeball it.  Wider strips will work fine, too—just allow for extra drying time.

Cut the strips into 1 inch pieces. 

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These will shrink up by half in the dehydrator giving you a bite sized piece. 

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Heat water, sugar and drink mix over high heat. 

Add the zucchini as soon as the sugar is dissolved and bring to a full boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

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Drain thoroughly reserving cooking liquid and allow to cool in the strainer for ten minutes. 

Dump zucchini out onto dehydrator trays or plastic wrap lined cookie sheets and let dehydrate.

Store in ziplock bags until they’re eaten up.

** Then lather, rinse, repeat. **

The next batch of zucchini can be cooked in the left-over cooking liquid with the same favor and texture.

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Drying In A Dehydrator:

Dry snacks for about a day, being sure to rotate trays.  Snacks are done with they’re still soft and pliable, but dry to the touch with a matte finish.

Drying In The Oven:

Line sheets with plastic wrap, but do not spray with cooking spray.(I used wax paper in this picture and it stuck horribly and discolored during the drying.  Plastic wrap has worked beautifully on all of the batches since then).

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You can either spread it around loosely with a spatula …

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… or go the Martha Stewart route and line them all nice and neat.

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The Martha way looks pretty, but it takes forever to do.  And both ways cooks just as well so there’s not an advantage either way.

As you can see, the pieces will shrink by about half and darken in color during their drying time.

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Set your oven between 140 – 170 degrees.  (My oven’s lowest setting was WARM – 170 degrees).  If your oven won’t go below 200 degrees, prop the door open with a hand towel and keep the temperature down a bit.

The drying time in the oven, as well as with the dehydrator, will vary depending on the piece sizes and humidity.  I placed the batch below in the middle rack of the oven at 170 degrees right after lunch.  I turned the oven off around 11 pm when I went to bed and kept the door closed all night. 

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In the morning they were almost done, so I scraped all the pieces together with a spatula to move them around, spread them back out and finished them in the oven at 170 degrees for about another 40 minutes.  Again, drying times will vary. 

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(Again, use plastic wrap to line your pans. I used wax paper here and although the flavor and texture were fine, the paper discolored and didn’t look very appetizing.)

When they were done, the 1 inch long pieces ended up at 1/2” inch bites and the 1/2” inch pieces ended up the size of mini M&Ms and were chewier.

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The smaller length pieces were also tough to use in the dehydrator because they kept falling through the cracks on the tray.   They also dried out much faster than the bigger pieces.  That made them much harder and chewy like jerky.  My kids liked the soft, bigger pieces much better.

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These snacks won’t win any beauty contests, but I’d rather give my kids 0.9 oz. of yummy homemade fruit snacks with all of the extra vitamins from the garden than the 0.9 oz. of the store bought variety with all the fillers and junk.

Oh, and these were supper cheap.

The store brand single serve packs work out to be about .20 each.  The homemade variety ran me .06 each when I bought sugar (and used the cooking liquid for two batches) and .02 a serving when I used sugar on hand.

Edited to add:

We have achieved SOUR fruit snacks!

Oh yeah.

These are sooooo good!

Mix 4 c. zucchini, 3 c. water, 1 c. sugar or splenda and 10 orange Kool-aid packs.

(Yes, you really do need 10 packs.)

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Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft.  Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to trays.

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Then dehydrate as usual.

You can go the bite-sized route with this snacks, but my kids prefer leaving them 3-4 inches long.

Why?

They make the cutest little sour gummie worms. Yum.

Oh. my. heck.

So ridiculously good!  Enjoy!

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68 comments:

  1. I so am going to try this. Awesome!!! Thanks for the tutorial.

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  2. This is great! I'm going to give these a try. The kids love fruit snacks but I hate giving them the ones from the store.
    Dr. Laura

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  3. have you thought of shredding the zucchini and mixing them with something like unsweetened apple sauce or other pureed fruit instead of the water and sugar and then drying them like a fruit roll up, I think I may try that next. then there would be no added sugar at all.

    www.ekoscraftylife.blogspot.com

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  4. I want to try this!! I was hoping one day I'd find a recipe for fruit snacks, but I am confused by the color....after you drained them they were a dark green and then they turned red??

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  5. To answer some of your questions:

    1. Sorry Sara ... used pictures from two different batches! The purple pictures are from the grape kool - aid and the red is from the fruit punch.

    2. Erin: I love the idea of using other fruit puree for an even healthier version. I have tried this with Splenda and that works, too.

    Now I just need some more zucchini for another round of experimenting!

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  6. Nick thanks for visiting my blog, I will be making some fruit leathers tonight I think, also the full tutorial for the Jean patch is up now.

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  7. Sorry David, but I don't have an answer for you on dehydrator temps. I have an old-school Ronco food dehydrator that just plugs in and out.

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  8. I am thoroughly impressed. I never ever would have thought to turn zucchini into fruit snacks.

    Wow.

    I am enjoying my visit to your blog (it's my first time). I hope you can stop over to Free 2 Be Frugal sometime soon.

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  9. I am not much for baking, but I try. So this sounds really cool and I am assuming it works with anything and not just zucchini?! That might sound like a dumb question I know, but I serious have no clue. haha

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  10. Can I do this with banana squash? I have 2 left from the garden!

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    Replies
    1. Yup! Any squash will work -- just make sure to trim the tough rind off completely or it will be super chewy.

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    2. I'm seeing pumpkin snacks boiled in apple cider......AUTUMN, I Miss you! Ahem. I won't buy my boys *7 and 4* fruit snacks, so the idea of being able to help make them and eat them will be the top of the world for them! Thank you for a recipe with so many options, and one I can finally support. I love that the same amount of sugar will do two batches. CHEERS

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  11. honest to goodness fruit snacks with no fruit?

    how about looking up fruit leather recipes with real fruit? it will cut out the koolaid and still serve as an on-the-go fruit snack.

    http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_fruit_leather/

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  12. Love this idea but how do you add the Kool-Aid? Will it soak up if you leave it in a bowl for a few hour or do you need to heat it together?

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    Replies
    1. Not sure UK Joy. I've never tried the soaking method. If you do try, please comment and I'll add your results to the post.

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  13. Anonymous, the zucchini technically is a fruit.

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  14. I wish I had seen this recipe when I had 5 squash a day coming out of the garden...next year though!!! Finally, something to do with them all!

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  15. Oooohhh, I can't wait to try this.. but I need to find a koolaid drink mix that doesn't have artifical flavors... they aren't good for my son's behavior! :)
    I found you via Pinterest :)

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    Replies
    1. Stacy,momof 2 - We've had issues of our own with my oldest. This would sooooo work with just straight, natural fruit juice! Citric acid + water + sweetener of choice will also work. Good luck!

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  16. Love this!! I blogged about making some from your recipe! http://thespasticcat.blogspot.com/2011/09/zucchini-fruit-snacks-yum.html They turned out DELICIOUS and the kids LOVE them! :)

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  17. Any alternatives to the Kool Aide

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    Replies
    1. Christina - See my comment above to Stacey,momof 2. Good luck!

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  18. use crystal light I tried it last night and they turned out great. I jutst put the one package with the 3 cups water with zucchini. and followed the directions. my son loved them, they were all gone in a matter of minutes but I only had one medium size zucchini. thanks I'll be making them often

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  19. Could you maybe cut the zucchini into shapes using a small cookie cutter (like the one inch ones that Pampered Chef sells), or even a bottle lid? I don't think my youngest son would even try them unless they were "fruit snack shaped"!

    Do you think this would work?

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    Replies
    1. Sara,
      That sounds wicked awesome! Post pics on Thrive's FB page if you do -- I'd love to see them. :)

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  20. Sara,

    The cookie cutters should work great! Give it a try and please send pictures--I'd love to see how they turned out. :)

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  21. What a great idea! As soon as the weather cools off I'm going to try a batch in my oven.

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  22. I am drying these right now. I cut my pieces fairly large to accomodate for the shrinkage but they're still getting really flat!! Hope they still turn out... I also thought of using a cookie cutter but figured the mini star cutter I have would cause the thin points to dry more quickly than the center or get hard & yuck. Anyone try the cutter yet?

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  23. Found you on Pintrest and I'm giving these a try today!

    I'm wondering though, would it be better to but the zucchini into strips and dry them like that (like you did with the worms) and then cut them into bite sized pieces once they're dry?

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  24. Cathy - yes, cookie cutters work! Just make sure the shapes are 3/8" thick or less. The shape holds it's shape fairly well, but expect a little unevenness.

    Jennifer - yup, drying long strips and then chopping them up into bite-sized pieces work just as well. Enjoy!

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  25. I did it! I made fruit snacks!!! Thanks Nike for the recipe and tutorial! go here to see my post:
    http://farm-marm-mama.blogspot.com/2011/10/fruit-snacks-yee-haw-kid-candy.html

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  26. Would this work with any type of squash? No zuchinni in the store today so was just curious

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    Replies
    1. Rachel, yes, any squash will work. Just make sure the rind is completely removed or it's uncomfortably chewy and tough.

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  27. My brain refuses to believe what I see. A. Ma. Zing.

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  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  29. I wonder if you could purée the zucchini after the boiling and soaking, and pour it into silicon molds to dry? I think I need to do LOTS of zucchini in the garden this year! My boys are so veggie-resistant, I like to sneak them in anywhere I can!

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  30. Debi Perry - yes, pureeing the zucchini should work great. My kids would love the extra bonus of having 'shapes' when we make these. Good luck!

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  31. I would like to make these but I am a little confused. You can put plastic wrap in the oven and it won't melt?

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  32. Dear Anonymous,
    YES! You can use plastic wrap without it melting. The relatively low temperature in the over (around 170 degrees) isn't hot enough to melt it. Good luck!

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  33. I made these with grape juice instead of kool-aid to great effect. Sub two cans frozen 100% purple grape juice for the kool-aid, sugar and water. I also used a little cooking spray on the pan instead of plastic wrap. Thanks for the great idea!

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    Replies
    1. His hi, did you only use grape juice and boil as directed? Just wondering about liquid amount being small. Thanks! Sounds like great healthy alternative.

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    2. I'm wondering the same thing. I have two containers of 100% frozen juice concentrate and a load of squash. Well, here goes. I'll let you know how it went tomorrow, I hope.

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  34. I just found your blog via pinterest. I am loving all the wonderful ideas you have. I can't wait until next summer to give these a try. I may just have to plant my own zucchini plant.

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  35. I loved the idea and tried these, following your recipe exactly, but they really weren't that great for us. The texture is just ok, and although I love the idea of using zucchini, adding all that color and sugar really doesn't make it any healthier than fruit snacks you can purchase, especially ones made with applesauce. Also, I don't know how much of a $ savings this would really be considering that you need to have your oven on for hours and hours. If I made these again, I'd try the grape juice suggestion mentioned above for healthier snacks.

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    Replies
    1. With the artificial color in KoolAid and sugar added or splenda added I am not sure how good this would end up being for you. With so many misleading "Fruit Snacks" in the market that list Sugar as the first ingredient, it is tough for busy Mom's to find a quick and healthy snack that their kids will like, without essentially just giving them candy like Fruit by the Foot or other so called "Fruit Snacks". As a busy Mom myself, I have discovered the great taste of SunRype 100% Fruit Snacks. They come with no artificial flavors and no artificial colors because as they say "we know that what's not in our all-natural fruit snacks is just as important as what is." Check out and "Like" SunRype@ http://www.facebook.com/SunRypeUsa or their website at www.sunrypeusa.com

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  36. Making these now!! Only starting with a half batch since my toddler is ridiculously picky but i am hoping for a good reaction! So tired of her constantly wanting the store ones FULL of sugar.

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  37. I like the idea of the fruit juice MUCH better.
    "Fruit & Veggies" Great!!!
    Just before I got to that comment I was thinking about how unhealthy Kool Aid & white sugar is. I never give my kids koolaid and I am sure most people are not aware of the evils of Splenda.
    Thank you for the Idea of "how to" & thank "you" for the Juice replacement trick.
    Peace
    Peace

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  38. plastic wrap in the oven?? it would melt...parchment??

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      At the lowest setting, the plastic wrap holds up like a champ. Parchment would probably work, too. Good luck!

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  39. Do you think you could use Stevia (Truvia) instead of Splenda or sugar? Splenda makes me very ill and I would like to get away from the sugar. Stevia doesn't raise the glycemic index so they may still be healthier. And someone posted, who directed me to you, that they used pineapple juice instead of Kool Aid. Wondering if you could use any juice like Coconut Milk for a fun flavor, grape juice, or home made fruit juice from a juicer????

    I am so excited. Now I need some zucchini and my dehydrator.

    Thank you!

    Rhonda Morin

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    1. Rhonda,
      I say give it a shot! I've used fruit juice and water, both with great results. Please let us know what combos you try and and how they turn out.

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    2. Forgot to add that liquid sweeteners like Agave will also work.

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  40. I too am steering away from adding sugar - I may try just 100% pure juice, but like pineapple (it's already SO sweet naturally).

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  41. This looks like a great idea. I'd love to give it a try but I can't buy Kool Aid here. Do you know what's in it? Is it just a concentrated fruit cordial?

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  42. What a great idea! But instead of adding 10 kool aid packs (that's a LOT of chemical junk...) why not add some ascorbic acid to the batch instead? I use it in a lot of my recipes as a way to sour things up, since I'm not allowed vinegar or citrus. :)

    Michelle Ferris
    Low Amine Recipes
    http://aminerecipes.com

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    Replies
    1. Michelle,
      That would work great, too. Another great alternative!

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  43. Could you use chokos to replace zucchini?

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  44. Just made a batch of these last night using Oasis 100% fruit juice in the 'red' flavour. While they shrunk nicely they juice doesn't have enough flavour for it to overcome the zucchini flavour... and while I love zucchini, dried zucchini flavoured with a touch of berry flavoured gummies just aren't quite doing it for me. I might add one pack of koolaid next time, mixed with the fruit juice for a compromise. They were sweet enough, just not the tastiest. Only other idea I had was to add other concentrated fruit flavouring, or maybe to start with a can of condensed juice and boil them in that, the grape juice might work too, it has a very strong flavour... hmmmmmmmmm

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  45. WOW! I just made these and my 2-1/2 year old loves them!! I am truly amazed that zucchini and grape juice concentrate make such a delicious snack. :) Thanks so much for coming up with a healthier and cheaper alternative to store bought gummies!!

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  46. I just wanted to let you know it was genius. I have read all the comments and some are critical of your use of sugar and koolaid, but I get it, you were trying to make a healthier cheaper alternative of the snack we all love and YOU DID IT! Plus you gave us all ideas that we played off of. Loved the juice ideas some did with it to make it more healthy. I used 1 cup of erythritol to 3 cups water with 2 packets of koolaid to 8-10 cups cubed zucchini and it was great, boiling for 30 minutes, dehydrating for 1-2 days, longer for tougher, shorter for juicier texture. I have made your sweet and sour and love it too. My dehydrator is full right now with 5 batches used twice as you suggested, with 5 different flavors, so about 100 cups of cubed zucchini. Used everyone's end of the season monster zucchini's and they won't last very long. My grandgirls take them by the handful and I don't even peel them unless they are really old and tough. They don't mind the green on them. I put them with nuts to make a trail mix and someone thought that they were cherries. It was great. I pinned this last winter and am so excited to have found it and that it really works. Lots of fun. Keep up the good work and don't let criticism slow you down, we are all trying to move toward a better life with baby steps and this is a real good move!

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    Replies
    1. Dona,
      Exactly! Are these zucchini snacks "health" food? No. But I never claimed they were. I'm one of those moms who occasionally buys gummy stacks from the store: love the convenience, hate the junk. This recipe allows me to have the "fun" snacks my kids like with less of the ingredients I don't. You are a rock star! I'd be overwhelmed with batches that large, but way to go! Your grandgirls are so lucky.

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  47. Since Zucchini is so flavor neutral, I wonder what it would taste like boiled in a salty/spicy/italian/bbq brine... I might have to try it for fun. Thanks again! :)

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    Replies
    1. Dona,
      I'm intrigued! They'd probably taste great since the zucchini would assume the flavor of whatever liquid was being used. Keep me posted!

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  48. I made these using Jello powder and only one cup of sugar and they turned out great and then you can put the remainig juice in the fridge to make jello, it takes on a little of the Zuk, flavor but my kiddos did not seem to mind.

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  49. I may now cry, I literally just shredded about 8 zucchinis to freeze ugh, this is amazing and with 4 kids who love fruit snacks this would be a huge hit (if they taste good) Do you think any flavor would work?

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Thanks so much for the comment love! I do cartwheels when I read each one. Well, I imagine my pre-pregnancy self doing cartwheels, but you get the idea ...